Via Indian Country Today: New School, New Vision for Isleta Pueblo

Isleta Pueblo has taken over the Isleta Elementary School, which since its founding in the 1890s had been under the control of the federal government. The difference in school morale and the children’s behavior, say school officials, is already evident. And it was certainly easy to see the day ICTMN visited—bubbly, friendly, well-behaved children, smiling teachers only too eager to show off their classrooms, and committed staff who took time to share their programs and plans for the future.

The transfer was official July 1. Just a few days before school started in August Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, Bureau of Indian Education Director Charles Roessel and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, joined Isleta Pueblo Gov. E. Paul Torres at the school to celebrate and turn over the keys. This is the first BIE-to-tribal school transition enabled by the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for Reform and the president’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, according to the Department of the Interior.

Torres explained that this is the school his grandmas and grandpas attended. It had once been an important gathering place for the community and provided a sense of continuity.

The language program has been active in the school for about two and a half years, with David Lente, Isleta Pueblo, serving as language teacher for grades K-6. “We’re incubating the language program now, working up to integrating language/culture into all instruction at the school,” he said. Among the initiatives underway, explained Lujan, are the production of cartoons in Tiwa for the younger kids and working with a private contractor to develop a Tiwa language program to run on Apple devices, called Tiwa Talk.

“Language, culture, and tradition are the focus of our new school,” said Gov. Torres. “We need our future leaders to be strong in language and culture to keep our identity.”

Via Edweek.org: Stakes High for Bureau of Indian Education’s Overhaul

An excerpt:

A U.S. Senate report from 1969 describes the federal government’s failure to provide an effective education for Native American children as a “national tragedy and a national disgrace” that has “condemned the [American Indian] to a life of poverty and despair.”

Nearly 50 years later, little has changed, in the view of advocates, lawmakers, and tribal leaders alike. Graduation rates in Indian Country are among the lowest of all student subgroups, and there’s a laundry list of schools in need of significant repairs, some of which lack essentials like heat and running water.

While the vast majority of Native American children attend traditional public schools run by local districts, members of Congress and the Obama administration—both of which have admitted to shouldering some blame for the current situation—are pressuring the Bureau of Indian Education to right its flailing operations at the schools the BIE oversees on or near American Indian reservations.

But since the bureau unveiled its blueprint for reorganizing last year, adjustments to its operations have been slow going, prompting some to question whether it will work. After all, the BIE, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior, has been beleaguered for decades by rampant staff turnover, lack of expertise, and financial mismanagement. In the last 36 years, it’s cycled through 33 directors.

“Questions have been raised about whether this will address the fundamental problems facing the system or simply rearrange the chairs at the department,” Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said May 14 during a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives that addressed the BIE’s shortcomings. “Questions have also been raised about whether this reorganization is being done in a timely manner or being delayed by the same bureaucratic wrangling that has plagued these schools for decades.”

Meanwhile, with Republicans in Congress focused on reducing the deficit and pruning the budget for federal agencies and programs, there’s little new money to be directed toward the problems.

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